Was the ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh as Bad as We Were Led to Believe?

Early in Detainee 001, Greg Barker’s documentary about John Walker Lindh (aka the “American Taliban”), writer and journalist John Wray wonders aloud, “Why is treason worse than another crime?” The reply appears fairly easy—treason is a betrayal of belief between people and their beginning nation, its residents, and its core values—however Wray confesses that he can’t intellectually grasp the the reason why this misdeed is so loathed. It’s a considerably baffling second that receives no additional examination, and as such, it’s a helpful encapsulation of Showtime’s newest documentary out Sept. 10, which is seemingly timed to the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

John Walker Lindh was launched from jail on Might 23, 2019, after serving many of the 20-year sentence he earned because of a plea deal he struck for his position in combating as a part of Taliban forces towards the U.S.-backed Afghan Northern Alliance within the months following al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11 assaults on the World Commerce Middle and Pentagon. On condition that he was a Caucasian man born and raised in Marin County, California, who had willingly relocated to the Center East to affix a terrorist group—first touring to Yemen in 1998 to review, after which returning to take up arms in 2000—he made for sensationalistic headlines upon his seize, with news retailers dubbing him the “American Taliban” and vilifying him as a Benedict Arnold-grade turncoat. Particularly in early pictures of him wanting scruffy, filthy, and unrepentant, he made for an ideal villain, and never serving to issues, he was seized in a roundup that preceded a Taliban jail rebellion that killed CIA officer Mike Spann—the primary American casualty in the War on Terror.

Detainee 001 is nominally about Lindh, though parsing its bigger goal—or coherent perspective—is a tough process. It begins with Wray studying from his 2019 New York Occasions op-ed “What Does the Release of John Walker Lindh Mean?,” segues to Spann’s daughter Alison speaking glowingly about her father, after which strikes on to CIA discipline officer Gary Berntsen proclaiming about Lindh, “Personally, I needed to see him hung.”

A steadiness of compassionate and unsympathetic voices is hardly a shortcoming, however from the outset, director Barker appears unclear about what film he’s truly making. Is it an inquiry into what made Lindh turn into an enemy combatant of america? Is it a harrowing account of the jail riot wherein he participated? Is it a research of anti-American hatred within the Center East? Possibly it’s a essential exposé about how the Struggle on Terror led to unethical practices (i.e. torture), as was probably the case with Lindh? Or may it’s a portrait of a person who was wronged by a political-media machine on the lookout for somebody to scapegoat?

At instances, Detainee 001 is about all of these issues. The issue is that it addresses every of its issues in fleeting vogue, elevating concepts after which shortly transitioning to different areas of curiosity, in order that no cogent thesis or perspective emerges. One second, it seems that Barker’s movie intends to recommend that Lindh was unfairly maligned as a traitor, or that treason shouldn’t be seen as essentially the most heinous of offenses; the following, it’s arguing that he was a pitiable sufferer of American abuses, in addition to somebody who won’t have been responsible of all his alleged crimes—since, in spite of everything, the federal government finally dropped eight of its ten costs towards him, and the choose stated that there was no proof immediately linking him to Spann’s demise. The result’s a non-fiction account that’s figuratively all around the map, uncertain of exactly what it needs to say.

For lengthy stretches, Detainee 001 focuses on CNN contributor Robert Pelton’s well-known video interview with Lindh in an Afghan hospital shortly after the jail rebellion, throughout which he identifies himself for the primary time, explains his allegiance to the Taliban trigger, and particulars his experiences within the calamity that left him injured and scores useless. It’s definitely fascinating materials, as are copious clips from contained in the jail siege itself, as CIA agent Dave Tyson scrambles to name for assist as gunfire echoes all through the traditional compound. There’s some in-the-moment immediacy to each of those sequences, offering a window into that very explicit time and place—together with the seconds instantly previous the preliminary grenade, throughout which we witness the late Spann interrogating an uncompliant Lindh on a blanket in entrance of his mujahedeen compatriots.

“It’s definitely fascinating materials, as are copious clips from contained in the jail siege itself, as CIA agent Dave Tyson scrambles to name for assist as gunfire echoes all through the traditional compound.”

In that alternate, Lindh declines to tell Spann of the forthcoming assault that might take his life, and in a brand new interview, Pelton states that—since Lindh had been within the basement the place the insurrection was plotted—there’s nearly no manner he didn’t know what was about to transpire. That helps Alison’s competition that Lindh is partially answerable for her father’s demise, and regardless of just a few subsequent voices ruminating on the futility of the Afghanistan marketing campaign, in addition to implying that Lindh acquired merciless therapy in custody, Detainee 001 by no means supplies any purpose to view its topic as something apart from responsible of the essential issues about which he was accused. And in reality, in Pelton’s interview, he comes throughout as a person who’s pleased with his Taliban service, and defiant about even being questioned by the American media, repeatedly saying that he doesn’t give Pelton permission to movie him (not that it issues).

In its concluding passages, Detainee 001 theorizes that maybe Lindh was only a younger man who bought caught up in each an ideology he favored (thanks, apparently, to a teenage viewing of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X), and the following pleasure of happening a army journey together with his comrades-in-arms. But if that’s so, then he additionally confronted the pure penalties of his personal actions—specifically, accidents sustained in battle, and ignominy for being outed as an American who sought to kill his fellow countrymen on behalf of his homeland’s adversaries. He might not have been a very notable bogeyman worthy of the media consideration he garnered, however Barker’s movie flails in making an attempt to painting him as one thing lower than an enemy of his folks. | Was the ‘American Taliban’ John Walker Lindh as Unhealthy as We Had been Led to Imagine?


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